I won’t bother repeating myself. Microsoft are in a pretty tough place right now. The iPhone turned everything inside out in 2007, then Android swept in and gained remarkable traction in the market. Microsoft repeatedly got knocked down, their existing Windows Mobile OS struggled to compete. Finally though, in late 2010, they’ve revealed the new Windows Phone 7 devices. There’s certainly enough of them – five from HTC (the HTC 7 Surround, HTC 7 Mozart, HTC 7 Trophy, HTC 7 Pro and HTC 7 HD7), the Samsung Omnia 7, the LG Optimus 7 and more.
A couple of weeks ago we were lucky enough to get a hands-on with Windows Phone 7 but now, with apps being added to the Marketplace and final software running on the phones, this is definitely something that Google and the Apple need to start worrying about. Microsoft and the phone manufacturers have created something here that actually made me walk out of the event early. Strangely, this is a good thing. The last time I walked out of a PR event early was when the Google-powered HTC Hero was launched and that, when we got chance to play with it for several hours, was solely responsible for us covering Android.
All the phones are really very good indeed. I liked the Samsung Omnia 7, the HTC 7 Mozart and the HTC 7 HD7 in particular, but a few brief minutes and snaps isn’t going to tell me what you need to know about the phones and the new OS. So, after leaving the big Microsoft event we crossed into St James’s Park where o2 were kind enough to let us play with a phone alone for several hours. We’d seen the demonstration, we’d watched the videos and we’d read the PR brief, but finally we were left alone to play with one.
The setup was painless. Enter your Microsoft Live ID (if you have one), then your Facebook details, your Google Mail account and anything else you may want (Exchange / POP3 etc) and you’re away. It’s hard to put your finger on it but the experience, which is glossy, quick and a lovely to watch, is such a leap from the old Windows Mobile 6.5 that you’d think a bomb had gone off in a Microsoft office somewhere. This is a total re-think, an enjoyable and entertaining experience. I have to agree with Stephen Fry when he said, “It’s fun”. It really is.
The phone instantly becomes “yours”. Familiar faces and places pop up on the home screen and the user interface is easy to understand and simple to navigate. The experience isn’t broken or mis-matched – apps are lovely to use. We looked at the eBay app and simply clicked on a listing we found – it was for a car. Clicking into it we found that the background changed to that car picture and all the thumbnails were displayed in a familiar Windows Phone way. It was seamless, there was no
fragmentation and the Windows Marketplace was beautiful to look at. The browsing experience, something which wasn’t even mentioned today, was so, so quick. Updates will be rolled out automatically to all Windows Phone 7 devices, no matter what make, model or network.
The market is saturated. Android and iPhone owners will probably remain loyal and will buy more Android and iPhone devices. Microsoft still have a few things to fix – the copy and paste update will be coming next year and we wanted to see Twitter integrated into the OS. The handsets also felt a little similar, with not a great deal of difference between them.
Microsoft had to come out today with a strong line of handsets and an equally strong operating system. To be honest, based on what I’ve seen, I think they did just that.